The Louisville Cardinal

Poet brings Patagonia stateside

by Morgan McGill —

 

An enthusiastic poet, actor and professor, Fernando Operé took the floor in the Chao Auditorium of Ekstrom Library Tuesday at noon. He presented the background, theme and experiences behind his latest book of poetry, “Anotado al Margen.” “Cuaderno de Ruta” and his friend’s recently published novel in which he is the main character, “Final de novela en Patagonia.”

He writes many of his poems in Spanish, but a few are written in English. Besides teaching Cultural History of Latin America at the University of Virginia for 33 years, he holds the position of UVA’s Hispanic Studies program and is extensively involved in UVA’s Spanish theatrical group. He is still as full of energy and enthusiasm as a child who has just discovered his niche. He has written 20 books: 15 fifteen on poetry and five on history. He took an eight-day bike trip in his native Spain last semester and has returned to the States full of zeal to write even more poetry.

For almost all his poems, he had to visualize Patagonia, the place of interest in his poetry, in order to describe it and interest people with its existence.

“It’s very difficult to talk about an area that is a place you don’t live,” he said. “We have this tendency to create myths about places we don’t know.”

Operé said traveling to Patagonia was like going somewhere familiar or close to home, because he had visualized it for so long in his writings. He described Patagonia as a mythical-like place, because few people know what it looks like, where it is or what happens in the small region located at the tip of Argentina and Chile. Patagonia’s location resembles that of Washington DC in North America, it is located between two states and contains much power in the way it promotes myths and stories throughout the minds of South American inhabitants.

The region is often called “Tierra del Fuego,” translated “Land of Fire,” because, since the region is so cold and populated by ice, the people who live there surround its lakes by making fires to get warm. Patagonians are impoverished and lack resources as simple as home-building supplies. One dilapidated schoolhouse Operé showed in his presentation was a one-room house meant to occupy 40 children.

Despite the devastation of the people in the area, he says Patagonia’s scenery is unlike any other. One of the region’s sides is completely covered in forest and mountains, displaying postcard-worthy views of untouched hills and ice.

“It is a wonderful island,” Operé said. Although it has changed a lot because of the touristic boom to the area since the year 2000, Operé says it is still beautiful, especially the less-visited parts.

Patagonia may not be the place it was 14 years ago, but it is special because of the mysterious lives inhabiting the region, the beautiful perspectives of creation it has to offer and the secrets it has yet to yield to human knowledge.​